What is the Skilled Worker route?

At the end of 2020, the Home Office made changes to the new points-based immigration system. The Skilled Worker route opened for applications and replaced the Tier 2 (General work visa) route. Whilst there are a number of similarities between Tier 2 (General) and the Skilled Worker route, changes have been implemented to allow employers to sponsor a wider workforce from outside the UK. These adjustments appear to make the system much more flexible and may encourage migrants to see the United Kingdom as a more appealing destination. The new points-based system will include a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor.

Lower minimum skilled threshold

From January 2021, any job offered to an overseas worker will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (this is equivalent to A level). Unlike its predecessor – where the skill level required was at RQF6 with a couple of exceptions where the skilled level was lower, such as nurses, and chefs – migrants applying for a Skilled Worker visa will not need to hold formal qualifications. However, the skill level of the job they will be doing will determine whether the threshold is met.

Lower salary threshold

Unlike Tier 2 (General) where the minimum salary to sponsor from overseas was £30,000, the Skilled Worker visa has a salary requirement of at least £25,600. Employers looking to recruit under the Skilled Worker route will need to pay the skilled worker a salary which equals or exceeds this salary threshold as well as the “going rate” for the occupation (as set out in the Standard Occupational Classification system), whichever is higher.

However, it is possible for those using the Skilled Worker route to in fact be paid less than the new general salary, where they will be given additional “tradeable points” for other attributes. This is something new and different to the old Tier 2 General route. Examples of those skilled workers with a lower salary are as follows:

  • An applicant with a job offer under the shortage occupation list may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both the general salary of £20,480 per annum and 80% of the going rate under the relevant SOC cod
  • An applicant who is considered a new entrant may be paid an annual salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 and 70% of the going rate under the relevant SOC code
  • A PhD applicant may be paid an annual salary which equals or exceeds both £23,040 and 90% of the going rate for the relevant SOC code.

The new entrant to the job market

The so-called ‘new entrant’ criteria can be met in a number of ways. They must be under the age of 26 at the time of application, the applicant is a recent graduate or about to graduate, those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions along with those working towards professional qualifications, registration or chartered status are included. Students who were on Tier 4 at any time in the two years before they apply under the Skilled Worker route will benefit from the new entrant position.

Skilled Worker Sponsorship Cap

The cap on the number of migrants entering the UK has been suspended, meaning there is no set number of how many migrants should be allowed under the Skilled Worker route.

What are the benefits of the skilled worker visa route?

  • A better opportunity for employers to recruit talent from around the world.
  •  The Resident Labour Market test (RLMT) where settled workers could apply for positions before they were offered to migrants has been abolished with the new scheme.
  • More generous provisions allowing switching of visa routes from inside the UK.
  • Lower minimum salary requirements for new entrants (who are starting their career). They will need to meet either 70% of the going rate for their occupation code or £20,480, whichever is higher.
  • There will be no limit on the number of skilled workers who can come to the UK.
  • Skilled workers can now apply for unlimited visa extensions – compared to the old Tier 2 (General) visa route where skilled workers could apply for extensions of up to six years.
  • Applicants can live, work, and establish themselves in the UK and apply for ILR after residing in the UK for five years.

What is needed to successfully apply for a Skilled Worker visa?

An applicant will need the following documents to file an application under the Skilled Worker route:

  • A valid passport
  • A certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), which is issued by the employer
  • The job offer must require a skill level at or above RQF3 (A level equivalent)
  • Evidence of meeting the required level of English language skills
  • Evidence that the candidate meets the maintenance requirement, either by showing evidence of their savings or an undertaking from their employer
  • TB test, if your country is listed on Appendix T

What are the qualifying points for a Skilled Worker visa?  

An applicant will need a minimum of 70 points to qualify for the Skilled Worker route as below.

  • Mandatory 50 points attributed to all skilled migrants which are as follows:
    1. English speaking at the required level – 10 points
    2. Job offer from an approved sponsor – 20 points
    3. Relevant skill level for the applied job – 20 points
  • Tradeable salary points
    1. Salary of £20,480 to £23,039. Have to meet at least 80% of the minimum salary requirements for the respective profession (whichever is higher) – 0 points
    2. Salary of £23,040 to £25,599. Have to meet at least 90% of the minimum salary requirement for the respective profession (whichever is higher) – 10 points
    3. Salary of £25,600 or above. Have to meet at least the minimum requirement for the respective profession (whichever is higher) – 20 points
  • Other tradeable points
    1. Have a job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee – 20 points
    2. Education qualification
    3. Ph.D. in a subject related to the current job – 10 points
    4. Ph.D. in a STEM subject related to the current job – 20 points
    5. Have a job listed in a health or education occupation/ new entrant in the labour market, and the applicant’s salary equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and the going rate for SOC code – 20 points

What level of English language is required for the Skilled Worker visa?  

Candidates wishing to apply for the Skilled Worker visa can satisfy the English language requirement using their GCSE/A level or Scottish Highers certificates. The current methods of proving English language ability, such as Degree taught in English or SELT will continue to apply. It is worth noting that if you are being sponsored to work as a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife, you won’t be required to prove your knowledge of English if you’ve already passed an assessment that is accepted by the relevant regulated professional body.

How can I apply for the Skilled Worker route?  

Candidates will need to make an online application using the appropriate form as well as pay the applicable fees. A list of the current fees for applications can be found on the UK government website by accessing the following link here.

Skilled Worker visa processing times?

The standard processing times for a Skilled Worker application are 8 weeks from inside the UK and 15 working days from outside the UK. However, these timeframes are not guaranteed, and cases considered more “complex”, or “high risk” may take longer to be decided.

Priority services are generally available as follows:-

Priority Service – 5 working day processing

Super Priority Service – 24 hour processing

Additional fees apply for priority (expedited) services, over and above the visa fees.

How long can you stay on the Skilled Worker visa?

The maximum one time one can apply for is 5 years at a time. It is possible to apply for any period up to 5 years in a single application. The visa will be issued in line with the dates given by the sponsor on the Certificate of Sponsorship. For example, someone employed on a 1 year (fixed term) contract, may be assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship with start and end dates that align with their employment contract. Although they were initially sponsored for a year only, the employer can sponsor an extension application, to allow the employee to keep working for them in the same or different role. With a new CoS, the person can make an application from inside the UK to extend their Skilled Worker visa.

What can I do if my Skilled Worker route application is refused?

There is currently no privilege of appeal for a refusal of a Skilled Worker route application made from outside or inside the UK. However, you might have an option to apply for an Administrative Review or Judicial Review. Our team of highly-experienced immigration solicitors will be able to help with your application for a Skilled Worker visa or advise on the best alternative to satisfy your requirements.

What are the Skilled Worker visa requirements for employers?

The sponsor must have a valid sponsor licence in order to assign a “Certificate of Sponsorship” to their prospective candidate.

The Certificate of Sponsorship contains information about the job offer.

The job must:

  • Be at the correct skill level for sponsorship
  • Be paid at the correct level for sponsorship

Furthermore, the sponsor, when assigning the Certificate of Sponsorship, is verifying that they will abide by the duties associated with being a licenced sponsor, including monitoring sponsored workers and reporting (to the Home Office) relevant changes to their sponsored staff’s work conditions, where applicable.

How much does a Skilled Worker visa cost?

The application costs

Inside the UK

Visa – non-Shortage Occupation List (up to 3 years) – £704
Visa – non-Shortage Occupation List (up to 5 years) – £1408

Outside the UK

Visa – non-Shortage Occupation List (up to 3 years) – £610
Visa – non-Shortage Occupation List (up to 5 years) – £1220

Shortage Occupation List Visa – Inside & Outside the UK

Visa – (up to 3 years) – £464
Visa – (up to 5 years) – £928

Health and Care Visa – Inside & Outside the UK

Visa – (up to 3 years) – £232
Visa – (up to 5 years) – £464

Eligibility criteria

This is a points based application. The applicant must score 70 points in total. These will be made up of mandatory and “tradeable” points, as follows:-

MANDATORY 20 Points – sponsorship by a licenced sponsor
MANDATORY 20 Points – job at the correct skill level for sponsorship
MANDATORY 10 Points – English language level at B1 (CEFR)

Tradeable points

20 points must be claimed for the salary. All jobs are classified using a “Standard Occupational Code (SOC). The SOC determines the “going rate” or minimum salary required for the position.

The applicant can score the required 20 points if they meet the criteria listed in Option A below.

Option A – 20 points

A Salary of at least £25,600 per annum;
At least £10.10 per hour; and
At least the going rate for the SOC

If the applicant’s salary is less than the above, they may be able to score the required 20 points by “trading points” for other “attributes” or “characteristics” under Options B – F below.

Option B – 20 points

A PhD in a subject relevant to the sponsored job and a salary of:
At least £23,040 per year;
At least £10.10 per hour; and
At least 90% of the going rate for SOC

Option C – 20 points

A PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the sponsored job and a salary of
At least £20,480 per year;
At least £10.10 per hour; and
At least 80% of the going rate for the SOC

Option D – 20 points

Job that falls on the UK shortage occupation list and a salary of
At least £20,480 per year;
At least £10.10 per hour; and
At least 80% of the going rate for the SOC

Option E – 20 points

Applicant falls under the definition of a “new entrant” to the labour market and they have a salary of
At least £20,480 per year;
At least £10.10 per hour; and
At least 70% of the going rate for the SOC

Option F

A Job which falls under the Home Office confirmed list of health or education jobs and a salary of:
At least £20,480 per year; and
At least the going rate for the SOC

Skilled Worker Visa Application Process

In most cases the applicant must follow a simple process to apply for a skilled worker visa

  • Register, complete and submit an online form on the gov.uk site
  • Pay the correct visa (immigration health surcharge and biometric enrolment fees, where applicable)
  • Book a biometric appointment on the website of the appointment centre operator (where applicable)
  • Upload scanned copies of supporting documentation to an online portal
  • Attend the appointment to enrol biometric data (photo and fingerprints) where applicable.
    • Some applicants (including EU nationals and certain non-EU national) are eligible to use the Home Office’s approved APP to verify their identity. The applicant still needs to fill out an online form, but is not required to attend an in-person biometric appointment. Instead, they would upload a photograph of themselves on the APP.

      What are the Financial Requirements for a Skilled Worker Visa?

      The applicant must show they have sufficient funds to support themselves in the UK. This does not always require bank statements. Someone whose A-rated sponsor has “certified maintenance” on their certificate of sponsorship, does not need to provide additional evidence of finances. Similarly, someone who has lived in the UK for the continuous 12 month period prior to their leave to remain application date does not need to provide evidence of funds. People who do not meet the above criteria will need to provide bank statements covering the 28 day period prior to their application, showing funds of at least £1270 in their personal bank account.

      Is it Possible to Extend the Skilled Worker Visa?

      There is no cap on extensions of a Skilled Worker visa. This visa can be extended inside the UK, without limit, provided the applicant meets the requirements at the date of the extension application.

      • Conditions of Stay as a Skilled Worker
      • The candidate is restricted to work for their sponsoring employer, in line with the conditions of their Certificate of Sponsorship (and acceptable, reported, changes). They may be eligible to take up a second job, provided this meets the rules on “supplementary employment”. They need to register with the UK Police if they are a national of a country whose citizens are subject to the visa condition of Police Registration. Study is permitted, provided it does not interfere with the work the person is sponsored to do. The person cannot claim UK public funds (state benefits). Voluntary work is permitted (provided it is unpaid).

      Why should I use A Y & J Solicitors to help with my Skilled Worker visa application?

      Our experienced business and personal immigration solicitors consistently achieve success for skilled and talented people who want to come to the UK to grow their careers, build their businesses or start a new life here with their families.

      With more than 10 years of experience behind us, we are experts with Skilled Worker visa applications and provide targeted and effective support for your application process from start to finish. Likewise, we’ll work with you to help your family members join you in the UK as your dependants. As a Legal 500 recognised business with many thousands of happy clients to our name, you can be assured that your visa process will run smoothly with our help


The Skilled Worker visa is the successor of the Tier 2 visa. Whilst most of the fundamental requirements and conditions are the same, these are not identical routes. However, someone who has leave to remain as a Tier 2 migrant, would make an application under the Skilled Worker route to extend their permission/apply for ILR, as the Tier 2 route is now closed to entry clearance, leave to remain and settlement applications.

A Skilled Worker can bring visa dependents which include the spouse, unmarried partner and under 18 children.

If you receive a job offer from another UK sponsor, you would need to be issued with a fresh Certificate of Sponsorship, in order to make a “Change of Employment” application. The new skilled worker visa must be granted, before you can start sponsored work for the new employer.

There is no cooling off period under the Skilled Worker route. This means that you can have held a Skilled Worker visa at any point before you apply for fresh entry clearance (make an application from outside the UK) under the route.